Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beer # 1401-1462 / Day #198-204: North Dallas Forty Ouncer

Well, airlines do allow one Carry On
Welcome back, y’all!  After a decent amount of haggling, and a prior cancellation, our band Infest finally headed to Dallas, TX.  The power duo of Jesus “Jesse” Fuentes and Katerina Economou set up our weekend, booking us on a solid line up with a multitude of the best aggressive bands from Chicago, Austin & Dallas.  Fuentes is part of the ever-revolving door of Texans who tend to mix-and-match themselves in ever-changing combos in every heavy grindcore band in the state.  This guy plays drums and guitar, records bands, sets up shows… a regular Jesus Of All Trades.  His girlfriend & partner in crime Katerina is equally as hands-on with setting up logistics and whatever is needed to facilitate these local noisy events. 
We left LAX on Friday afternoon, and I knew the weekend would be good when one of the small airport bars offered cans of beer to go, including one I’ve never heard of:  The GOLDEN ROAD CARRY ON, a citrus ale that’s extremely heavy on the citrus, but I couldn’t have been more ecstatic in my nerdiness whilst taking this aboard our Southwest flight to El Paso. In spite of LAX being a major international hub, and Dallas being a major international hub, we were inexplicably booked with a stopover in El Paso.  Sadly, the El Paso airport completely lacked any local flavor on the suds front, not even a freakin’ Lone Star beer, not to mention there was no decent food.  The connecting flight to Dallas’ Love Field could not have come soon enough. 
First thing I noticed, everyone actually does say “Y’all”
"But Officer, I wasn't laughing.."
“I’d like to welcome y’all to Dallas.”
“Y’all have a nice evening.”
We “all” rolled through the airport, amused by the police attempting to look authoritative on their comical Segways, and hopped into Jesse & Katerina’s baller black luxury rental vehicle. Thanks to Katerina’s savvy Groupon skills, we were hooked up in a swanky hotel by The Galleria in North Dallas.  Like really swanky.  Like scumbags-like-us-clearly-don’t-belong-here swanky. You’d think after playing music for 30 years this would be second nature, but it’s not. I’ve spent my touring life sleeping on filthy floors at the worst house on the block in the worst part of town.  I’m still humbled at moments like this, but I wasn’t about to complain. The cherry on top was the lobby bar loaded with six Texas beers on tap. While rooms were being sorted out, I lounged in the lobby on a white leather chair sipping a toothsome LOST GOLD IPA from Austin’s REAL ALE BREWING. I shouldn’t get used to this. But I easily could.
Like a glowing Xanadu it appears
After checking in, we all piled into the pimpmobile and headed to the Lower Greenville neighborhood to check out some local grindcore bands playing at Taqueria Chichen Itza, which is exactly what it sounds like:  A one-room taqueria, not much larger than the actual tortillas they’re serving. What they didn’t serve was alcohol, but this venue is BYOB-friendly, so we headed to the corner store a half block away. However, in the opposite direction of the liquor store there was a glowing neon row of bars, with the closest building touting itself as a Bottle Shop.  Whaaaa? Sure enough, I had stumbled upon World Beer Company, a wall to wall bottle shop with 22 unique taps. The good news is they were open.  The bad news is it was last call. Matt Domino was right behind me and we snuck in for last call for a couple high-quality, high-octane pints…. the MARTIN HOUSE BREWING PRETZEL STOUT and the (512) BREWING COMPANY PECAN PORTER, a beer highly recommended to me by Harley The Vendome Cicerone back home. The vibe was perfect, both beers were excellent, but they were closing up shop and we had no choice but to leave. What’s the old adage… “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”  Oh, World Beer Co., parting is such sweet sorrow.
Next stop was across the street at the mildly douchey Libertine Bar, a spot with a multitude of Texas taps posted, but half of which were unavailable when I ordered them.  Joe Denunzio got the last of the OMMEGANG BELGIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IPA and I got a taste before I went inside and waited 15 minutes for pours of the ROGNESS BREWING BEARDY GUARD and COMMUNITY BEER COMPANY ESB.  We loitered outside with our pints, but tensions rose as Domino got nasty looks from a blonde sitting across from us… nasty because she made the decision to hit the town commando… meaning no underpants, just a short skirt, and her wizard sleeve flapping in the breeze.  And yet it was everyone else’s fault for actually noticing she was sans panties. Look lady, y’all should wear some skivvies next time!
Gettin' a taste of Dallas
We headed back to the taqueria to check out some grinding noise from Creator/Destroyer, a full-throttle aural assault featuring Fuentes in the line up, as well as my old pal Dorian Rainwater.  I tried ordering food, but the cook told me, “We’re out of all meats, except ham.”  Who’s ever heard of a ham taco?  And the nearby stores stopped selling beer at midnight.  Good to know, expect for the fact that it’s now 1am.  I hit the row of bars again, and fought a crowd of frat folks noisier than Creator/Destroyer to get a pint of the well-worth-it & skunky ODELL MYRCENARY IPA.  1:30am, last stop and last call at Greenville Ave Pizza Company for a couple scrumptious slices and a forgettable pint of BRECKENRIDGE AGAVE WHEAT ALE.
Our whole team was tipsy, and headed back in the pimp ride, all the while Bobby K. fought off carsickness (which we were convinced is more of a self-induced phobia) from the far back seat. 

We must drink by Any Means Necessary
I awoke Saturday morning, fresh as a daisy.  Or at least as fresh as a daisy that’s been mercilessly trampled multiple times. Today’s agenda was to meet up with my old friend Chris Thackaberry, a UK native I first met in London back in 1999 through our shared affinity of fast hardcore music, and who strangely enough now resides in Wylie, TX.  Thacka has adopted the Texas lifestyle with a big T, driving one of the most massive white trucks in the state.  The only thing missing was a gun rack. Unlike the wahoo persona of his vehicle, Thackaberry is the most warm-hearted, friendly, and generous individuals you would ever hope to meet.  He picked me up and shuttled me to Deep Ellum Brewing to check out their taps during their short window of Noon-3pm pouring.  As we weaved through this endlessly sprawling metropolis, he enlightened me to the oddball state liquor laws.  We discussed Dry counties (he lives in one, no liquor is sold whatsoever), Damp counties (beer and wine only), and Wet counties (everything’s for sale, but at specific hours). Apparently, most breweries are not allowed to sell taps directly to the public, so they get around this by selling “brewery tours” and offering a “free” tasting at the end of the tour.  Sure enough, we rolled up to a massive crowd at DEEP ELLUM BREWING.  With only a short three hour window, attendees need to get their drink on in a timely manner.  There was a live band, a food truck, and bustling throngs that were nearly shoulder to shoulder.  No tasters, no flights.  The only option was to purchase a pint glass which came with three wooden nickel drink tokens.  So, this was their “work around”, to avoid selling beer directly to the public… we’re trading tokens for each pour, not exchanging money.  Come to think of it, I had a similar experience at Jester King Brewing last summer.  It was all making sense.
Deep in the heart of Ellum
I tried everything they had on tap, which wasn’t much… the DOUBLE BROWN STOUT, DALLAS BLONDE, DEEP ELLUM IPA, and their PALE ALE.  All were decent, the IPA being the best of the four. No specialty taps.  And no flagship DREAM CRUSHER DOUBLE IPA, thus my dreams were indeed trod upon. 
My old pal Jack Barfield made the roadtrip up from Austin and met us at the brewery.  We drank, listened to the mediocre cover band in the courtyard, and soaked up the unseasonably mild weather.  I dreaded Dallas this time of year, expecting a thoroughly humid, soggy, and boiling hot weekend of which Texas is infamous for.  Instead we were treated to a rare stretch of overcast 70s weather which was nicer than what I left behind in California.  It was 2pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing.  My only option for my second meal, for the second time:  Pizza. 
Winning the Four Corners lotteria
At 3pm they gave us the bum’s rush, and we flowed into the street with the stream of tipsy Texans.  Next stop was near the venue we were playing tonight, FOUR CORNERS BREWING.  More baffling was that the liquor laws were different here than at Deep Ellum.  Four Corners actually had a comfortable tasting room in the brewery and directly sold samplers & pints. I grabbed a flight of four impressive brews, the LOCAL BUZZ, BOSS LADY RUSTIC RED, plus the fantastic BLOCK PARTY PORTER and EL CHINGON IPA.  Overall, I enjoyed 4C way more than Deep Ellum.  The mellow vibe was more akin to what I’m used to in SoCal.
Time to head back to the hotel, pick up my bandmates, and get ready for tonight’s gig.  Being the Texas gentlemen that they are, both Barfield and Thackaberry brought with them a healthy assortment of local flavor for ample sampling.  We had a couple hours before the doors opened at the spot we were playing, so just enough time to kick off a Room 624 Tasting Party of our own.  We opened eight different beers and split them between four of us, with Thackaberry barely sipping more than a drop since he volunteered to drive.  Several offerings from REAL ALE, an astonishingly good SHINER RUBY REDBIRD, a SOUTHERN STAR PINE BELT ALE, an excellent Belgian style white ale WHITE RABBIT from INDEPENDENCE BREWING, and one of the weekend’s crown jewels, the BLAKKR collaboration Imperial Black Ale from 3 FLOYDS / SURLY / REAL ALE (many thanks Mr. Barfield!).  Pleased, but not too soggy, we headed to the venue.
Room 624 Tasting Party:  Act One
Speaking of soggy, our original venue, Diablo Ranch, had been flooded out a few days prior, due to a squall of massive thunderstorms.  With the Ranch underwater, Fuentes scrambled & found the Vice Palace as a last minute replacement venue.  This less-than-elegant “Palace” is a cavernous warehouse that could have easily fit 3,000 people.  We weren’t expecting 3,000 people, but it would have to do.  No idea what this place used to be, but the walls inside were covered with a dense, mysterious, furry looking substance that I was praying wasn’t asbestos.  This location was so enormous that bands just drove their vehicles straight into the heart of the building to unload their gear.  There was a small stage and sound system at one end of the room that was blasting noisy tunes while everyone prepared for the show.  Strangely enough, it took me a minute to realize the house music was actually my old band Spazz, from an album I haven’t fully listened to in close to two decades.  It was an oddly disconcerting, vaguely nightmarish & surreal feeling to hear material that I had written and recorded, of which I barely had a hint of recognition or recollection.   
He did.
I walked a few blocks down for a quick, unsatisfactory dinner at Hofmann Hots, a hot dog joint with a million double-entendre Weiner slogans plastered on every square inch of the building.  The dog I ate conjured a sense memory of 4th Grade hot lunches, and elementary school classmates puking on their desks.  Well, at least my third meal in Dallas wasn’t pizza.
The show kicked off with a solid line up of Texas grind-hardcore-thrash-power-violence bands, each one more punishing than the one before them…. Mean & Ugly, Lacerations, Chest Pain, Mindless, Creator/Destroyer.  Next was Weekend Nachos who had just arrived that morning from Chicago.  They blazed through their set in a shower of miscellaneous smokebombs and fireworks.  This crowd was small but savage, primitive.  I saw chunks of the ceiling drifting down lazily through the haze, all the while praying that I was not catching lung cancer, or about to perish in an inferno lit by a wayward firecracker.  Infest hit the stage and we cranked out a lukewarm set, not the worst, but not the best.  Poor sound, more fireworks, sweat, mayhem, blood on the floor… so a good time had by all. 
Denunzio approved.
After some hand shaking, picture taking, and soggy pats on the back, the small but mighty crowd was gone, and we were in the parking lot alone, being bitten by unseen winged creatures.  Wait, what’s the location of the after-show?  Shit.  Thankfully our room still contained a bounty of unsampled local brews, so we capped off the evening with Part 2 of the Room 624 Tasting Party, highlighted by the weekend’s finest brew:  RAHR & SONS BOURBON BARREL AGED WINTER WARMER, a dark and dense, slightly sweet, thoroughly dominating Texas oil slick of a beer. 

Sunday I awoke a much fresher daisy than the morning prior.  After a stiff coffee and a scone, it was apparent we would need to check out soon, and there were still a decent amount of unopened, unique beers in the fridge.  Too early?  Hmmm, one of them WAS labeled as a “Breakfast Brew”.  Well, if you insist. 
If you look very closely you can still see it
Matt Domino and Crazy Legs Bob headed out to the Waffle House, enduring a barrage of “Awful House” jokes.  Barfield offered to drive me and Denunzio around for a few hours before heading to the airport, so we hit the quintessential Dallas tourist spot: Dealey Plaza – The location of JFK’s assassination, an event rivaled only by Roswell as the grand poobah of all conspiracy theories.  As much as I didn’t think it would affect me, it was eerily humbling to stand on a site so familiar, one I’ve seen thousands of times throughout my life via a grainy, Zapruder home movie.  The book depository is still there.  The grassy knoll is still there, crassly identified with a massive yellow “GRASSY KNOLL” banner.  And there are two painted “X”s in the street, locations of the first shot and the second shot.  Avoiding hucksters who were selling conspiracy newsletters or recruiting visitors for unnecessary tour packages, and watching families run into the middle of the street to mug for photos over each “X” was uncomfortable, but also typically American in its own way.  The only thing missing was a corporate sponsor: “The JFK Assassination Site – Sponsored by Taco Bell and Monster Energy Drink”.
Sticking to this downtown neighborhood, we hit Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse for what turned out to be mediocre BBQ, highlighted only by the fact I got to try one of the local favorites recommended by several friends, the delicious PETICOLAS BREWING VELVET HAMMER, a smooth drinking, deep red, strong ale.  We got to the airport early enough to relax and enjoy a couple more pre-boarding pints including the roasty, dark, malty SAINT ARNOLD BREWING SANTO black kolsch. Not sure why the airport bar insisted on showing endless CNN coverage of the recently downed Malaysia jetliner. Not the most prudent of viewing choices for a terminal full of passengers. Flying home, seated next to the one woman on the plane who would never stop talking even if you threatened her with a white-hot branding iron, I realized this was my first trip to the Lone Star State when I didn’t subject myself to Lone Star beer.  Considering Lone Star is one of the worst beers in the country, and I had just sampled some of the best beers Texas has to offer, it was a fair trade-off.  Vaya con dios, Tejas. Turns out y’all know what you’re doing with your brewing.

Continuous plane crash coverage on the airport bar TV, right before I board a plane. Good choice.
The beering continues…

Thursday 7/17 – New release tasting at Vendome and a couple at home:
1401 - BOULEVARD SAISON BRETT (2014) - A freshly manicured garden in a glass, no overwhelming pucker, tart but smooth.
1402 - STONE BREWING ENJOY BY 08.16.14 IPA - Flawless and fresh as always, a real man's IPA, definitely related to the cannabis family.
1403 - ROUGH DRAFT BREWING 2ND DRAFT AMERICAN MANHATTAN ALE - Supposed to be homage to the Manhattan cocktail, tastes like Brach's chocolate covered cherries to me, though not unpleasant.
1404 - BOULEVARD LOVE CHILD NO. 4 - The beautiful mutant offspring of all things wild, funky and tart. Good one.
1405 - BROUWERIJ DE MOLEN / ANCHORAGE COLLABORATION MUD & FUNK - Not at all what I expected, tastes nothing like an imperial stout, and everything like an acidic red wine.
1406 - HERMITAGE BREWING ALE OF THE IMP - I bought one of these about 4-5 years ago and it was horrific. A friend insisted I try it again. Not horrific at all. Seriously great DIPA. Thanks for not being terrible anymore, Hermitage. And thanks for insisting I give this brewery another try, Chris Wilder.
1407 - DE STRUISE BROUWERS PANNEPOT (2011) - Ridiculous how excellent this is, tart like a wine, well rounded and malty beeriness, this is incredible.
1408 - BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING BIG BEAR BLACK STOUT - Decent, I taste the hops more than anything, could be even inkier for my tastes.

Here's another long-winded story, y'all...
Friday 7/18 – LAX but mostly Dallas
1409 - HEINEKEN RIO DE JANEIRO CITY EDITION – What’s this about a ‘Shitty Edition’?
1410 - GOLDEN ROAD CARRY ON CITRUS ALE - Makes me happy to buy this @ LAX and carry it on the plane. You made me a very pleased man, Golden Road.
1411 - RAHR & SONS TEXAS RED - Decent way to start our weekend in Dallas, six pack from a gas station.  Not bad, but things can only get better.
1412 - REAL ALE BREWING LOST GOLD IPA - Have I mentioned how much I love TX yet? Killer IPA! Hoppy but balanced by the grains, y'all.
1413 - (512) BREWING COMPANY PECAN PORTER – The shiznit. Highly recommended by Harley The Vendome Cicerone back home, but I didn’t expect to actually find it.  An Austin brewery on tap at World Beer Co.
1414 - MARTIN HOUSE BREWING PRETZEL STOUT – At World Beer Co.  Sweet, malty, interesting concept, but the taste is not distinctly pretzely as touted.
1415 – OMMEGANG BELGIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IPA – Libertine Bar. The keg tapped out with Joe Denunzio’s glass, but I got a taste.  Great Belgian style IPA, and the best hoppy beer I’ve had from Ommegang.
1416 - COMMUNITY BEER COMPANY ESB – Libertine Bar. Palatable but not memorable.
1417 - ROGNESS BREWING BEARDY GUARD – Libertine Bar. Is it weirder that there’s a Biere de Garde coming out of TX, or that the brewery is from a town in TX named Pflugerville?
1418 - ODELL BREWING MYRCENARY DOUBLE IPA – Blind Butcher bar, 1am outside in surprisingly perfect weather. Wonderfully skunkified double IPA. 
1419 - BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY AGAVE WHEAT – Meh. Nothing to write home about, nor blog about. A pint to accompany 2am pizza in downtown Dallas.

Saturday 7/19 – Dallas, sans J.R. Ewing
1420 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING DOUBLE BROWN STOUT – Decent, more akin to an English style stout.
1421 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING DALLAS BLONDE – I picture an actual Dallas Blonde as big and voluptuous.  This beer isn’t big and voluptuous.  It’s mild and nondescript.
1422 - DEEP ELLUM BREWING DEEP ELLUM IPA – Excellent hoppy IPA, too bad they weren’t serving their Double IPA.
1424 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING LOCAL BUZZ – Delicious rye golden ale brewed with locally sourced honey, gotta love that.
1425 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING EL CHINGON IPA – A combo of hops and distinct malt, one of my faves.
1426 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING BLOCK PARTY PORTER – The best of the four Four Corners I tried, roasty and chocolatey and smoooove on the finish. Excellent.
1427 - FOUR CORNERS BREWING BOSS LADY RUSTIC RED – Mildly hoppy red, not mind-blowing, but quaffable.
1428 - INFAMOUS BREWING HIJACK CREAM ALE – Not bad, but I never expect greatness from cream ales.
1429 - INDEPENDENCE BREWING WHITE RABBIT – This was a standout of all the Austin cans & bottles from Jack Barfield, a Belgian style white ale, so damn good.
1431 - REAL ALE BREWING BREWER'S CUT NO. 015 SIGNATURE HOP PALE ALE – Real hop bite minus the bitterness, tastes a bit like corn on the cob.
1432 - REAL ALE / 3 FLOYDS / SURLY COLLABORATION BLAKKR IMPERIAL BLACK ALE – A worship-worthy collaboration of North meets South, a superior imperial black ale with heavy hops and chocolate goin’ on, plus at 9.99% ABV it’ll knock you on your ass if you’re not a professional.
1433 - REAL ALE BREWING BREWHOUSE BROWN ALE – Decent, malty, and sessionable.
1434 - SHINER RUBY REDBIRD – I have an aversion to Shiner Bock, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t hate this.  It’s actually quite good, killer for a hot TX day. Not overly sweet.  Grapefruit without the heavy acidity, and a sharp ginger bite.  Good one.
1435 - SOUTHERN STAR BREWING PINE BELT PALE – Nice coppery, easy drinking pale with some bite.
1436 - AUSTIN BEERWORKS HEAVY MACHINERY DOUBLE IPA – So much writing on the can, it’s of Biblical proportions.  Awesome crunchy IPA.
1437 - SAINT ARNOLD BREWING 20TH ANNIVERSARY ALE – Tastes like it’s a hybrid of barleywine meets a Belgian quad. It’s 2am and this is delicious.
1438 - REAL ALE BREWING DEVIL'S BACKBONE TRIPEL – Belgian style, golden and satisfying.
1439 - RAHR & SONS BOURBON BARREL AGED WINTER WARMER - A dark and dense, slightly sweet, thoroughly dominating Texas oil slick.  Best beer of the trip.  I’m forever grateful to Chris Thackaberry for hooking us up with this bottle.
1440 - REAL ALE BREWING FULL MOON PALE RYE ALE – Good one, with that sharp & distinct rye bite.
1441 - REAL ALE BREWING FIREMAN'S #4 BLONDE ALE – Described in my notebook as “whatever”.

Sunday 7/20 – Dallas tastings, and back to LA
1442 - MARTIN HOUSE BREWING DAY BREAK 4 GRAIN BREAKFAST BREW – Did you say “breakfast”?  OK, if you insist. Ale brewed with honey and milk sugar. Sweet and oatmealy.  Interesting for a taste, but I wouldn’t want the full can.
1443 - MARTIN HOUSE BREWING RUBBERNECK RED – Tasty freakin’ red with some good full-bodied hops going on.  Apparently someone from The Toadies is involved in this brewery.  I couldn’t name a Toadies song, but I guess that gives ‘em some sort of street cred?
1444 - GRAPEVINE CRAFT BREWERY LAKEFIRE RYE PALE ALE – So-so. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that rye bite I was expecting.
1445 - REAL ALE BREWING WHITE – Wheaty and tasty.  A good Nooner beer.
1446 - PETICOLAS BREWING VELVET HAMMER – Both smooth and powerful as the name implies.  Is it an imperial red?  All I know is this would be one of my “go to” beers if I lived here.
1447 - SAINT ARNOLD BREWING SANTO – I got lucky to find a damn good airport beer.  A black kolsch with dark malt depth. Refreshing.
1448 - HARPOON BREWERY IPA – Very tasty hop attack with a back end malt finish, well-balanced and comforting.
1449 - KARBACH BREWING HOPADILLO IPA – Making my Houston layover more tolerable, a nice, dense, hoppy beast.
1450 - SAINT ARNOLD BREWING SUMMER PILS – Good although not distinct.
1451 - CORONA EXTRA – I expected it to be pointless, and it is. But at least there’s finally an airline beer I haven’t had, in order to break the Bud & Heineken monotony.

Monday 7/21 - Home
1452 - COORS BREWING BATCH 19 PRE-PROHIBITION STYLE LAGER – I was expecting the worst, but this was surprisingly drinkable. It’s not too far removed from “old man beer”, but goes fine as an inoffensive accompaniment to spicy Mexican food.  Thanks for the bottle, Kelly Reese.
1453 - MENDOCINO BREWING BLACK IPA SEASONAL – I’m a fan of this style, although this one wasn’t distinct.
1454 - BOULDER BEER COMPANY MOJO INDIA PALE ALE - Decent, but also semi-soapy.  I wouldn’t drink it again by choice.

Tuesday 7/22 – Home, digging into the long-awaited Beer Camp collection
1455 - HENNINGER PREMIUM LAGER - My wife found this at the 99 Cent Store. Surprisingly it's pretty decent, your average lager but better than Bud.
1456 - SIERRA NEVADA / 3 FLOYDS COLLABORATION BEER CAMP CHICO KING PALE ALE - Very tasty hoppy brau, but tastes very much in line with trademark Sierra Nevada hopped beers.  Good, but I expected an imperial over-the-top beer with FFF involved.
1457 - SIERRA NEVADA / OSKAR BLUES COLLABORATION BEER CAMP CANFUSION RYE BOCK - Heavy rye and citrus bite, smooooth finish, tasty and somewhat unique collab.
1458 - SIERRA NEVADA / NINKASI COLLABORATION BEER CAMP DOUBLE LATTE - My fave of the collabs so far, fantastic coffee milk stout, creamy, roasty, and damn near perfect.
1459 - SIERRA NEVADA / NEW GLARUS COLLABORATION BEER CAMP THERE AND BACK ENGLISH STYLE BITTER - Very tasty, hoppy English bitter with mild roasty and citrusy bits. A fine collab.

Wednesday 7/23 – Home, exploring more Beer Camp
1460 - SIERRA NEVADA / CIGAR CITY COLLABORATION BEER CAMP YONDER BOCK - Didn't get a lot of the fruitiness, but very dense & bready. Still a good collaboration.
1461 - SIERRA NEVADA / FIRESTONE WALKER COLLABORATION BEER CAMP TORPEDO PILSNER - Pretty mild, hoppy pils collab. Actually, my first similar choice would be the Firestone Walker Pivo Pils.
1462 - SIERRA NEVADA / BELL'S COLLABORATION BEER CAMP MAILLARD'S ODYSSEY - Deep, rich, dense dark ale. I wasn't expecting greatness from a Bell's collab, but this is one of my faves from the pack.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beer #1312-1400 / Day #187-197: Homebrews, Hosers, Hoses, Hobos, and Homies

None More Black: It Goes To 11%
As Dubya would say: Mission accomplished
My first serious foray into homebrewing is complete. It all started way back in mid-May with me and Ryan Harkins from Grill Em All in Eagle Rock brewer Lee Bakofsky's garage. Ryan & I are the rookies, Lee is the pro, graciously showing us the ropes. We set out to make a strong imperial oatmeal stout, with roughly 11% ABV. A dark beer. And "it goes to 11”. A Spinal Tap moment waiting to happen. I told my Wife about it, and her first question was, “Are you going to call it ‘None More Black’?”  We are now!
A couple weeks ago, we gathered to taste our creation after a month of fermenting.  It was ice cold and not yet carbonated, but still damn good on its own. After letting it warm up to room temperature I was getting the subtleties of the oatmeal on the back end, with some minor roasty malt & grain goodness.
After a few more weeks for fermentation, it was ready for bottling. Again, Ryan & I are total brewing greenhorns, but Lee patiently guided us through the process. The bottle capper we were borrowing was left behind at Eagle Rock Brewery, so we not-so-reluctantly drove down there to pick it up, and not surprisingly enjoyed some quality pints while we were there. The Imperialist double IPA and Lou hoppy brown ale perfectly set the mood of gratitude.
Cohorts cavorting.
Back to business, the bottling went by fairly quick, and somewhat accident free once we established our assembly line rhythm, occasionally switching between the "beer gun" bottle filler, and the capper. We confirmed Ryan is not the best bottle capper. Likewise, I proved my ineptitude after Lee mentioned we needed to apply a little more pressure to the capping, so I promptly applied too much pressure & snapped off the top of the next bottle. We chatted about the various methods of potential contamination during the bottling process, how Bootlegger’s Brewery allegedly used to fill all of their bottles this way with a homebrewers beer gun, the recent influx of homeless into Highland Park after being swept out of Downtown LA, and also tossed around hobo-related monikers for our three man brewing collaboration.  Ultimately, we ended up with 36+ well filled bottles, and a handful of oddball rejects, ready for immediate consumption.  The remaining 2/3 keg will be aged with wood and held for a few more months until our “aged” stout is ready for bottling.  Bottom line, I’m proud of our maiden voyage and anticipate many more successful excursions beyond the barriers of brewing.
Shit just got real.
We celebrated with a quick evening jaunt to the Hermosillo, and enjoyed some brews from their new in-house Highland Park Brewery, who is showing incredible potential with these initial brewing forays.  Their guest taps are even more impressive, almost none of which I had already tasted.  The only surprising disappointment was the Almanac Ichibier sushi rice beer which tasted like a garden hose.  Regardless, it was a perfect night all around.
While I’m confident there’s room for growth in our brau collaborations, this experience has been exponentially gratifying, and I’m thankful to my cohorts for allaying my brewing-related fears. Keep an eye out for Bakofsky, Harkins and Dodge.  Cheers!

West Coast Big Year Tasting Summit – Summer 2014
For those of you following along, you’re aware that my old friend and former bandmate Chris Wilder is also my nemesis and current closest competitor in the Big Year In Beer.  Work brought him to SoCal, and for the first time this year, we were able to share an evening of hardcore beers and jeers in person.  The evening kicked off with Wilder exclaiming, “You’re ruining my life!”, to which I repeatedly quipped, “No, you’re ruining your own.”  He then described the manic pace with which he has been pursuing his beer count, how he has completely stopped eating breakfast because he’s gaining so much weight with all this beer, and how his wife Kate sadly has less than zero interest in sampling beer or visiting breweries with him.  I’m lucky that my wife not only tolerates and supports my bizarre quest, but often accompanies me to so many remote brewpubs, bottle shops, and industrial parks… she has declared several times that she’s “over beer”, but continues as my companion nonetheless.
Vertically challenged.
Tonight, The Mrs whipped up an incredible vegan Mexican dinner, and we stuffed ourselves silly before plunging into the deep end of our evening.  Being the sporting chap he is, Wilder brought some thoroughly impressive Bay Area braus to share.  While I don’t have the budget, nor the storage space for any sort of major “collection”, I do have a small handful of special bottles I’ve been squirreling away. 
One group of bottles I’ve been saving for the apocalypse is a 5-year vertical of North Coast Old Stock Ale 2010-2014.  This was the first time I’ve been able to sample a consecutive 5-year vertical of any beer, and while it was quite good, the consensus was this is more “fun” than it is “necessary”.  Old Stock Ale is a great, malty, alcohol-heavy, full-bodied brew that can hold up for years, but there are also so many other far superior brews one could cellar, Old Stock is not exactly the pinnacle of a beer one would hold onto for a special occasion. 
On the other hand, the output of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales are exactly the types of brews you would want to sit on for that special gathering.  Courtesy of Wilder, we opened the Sante Adairius West Ashley barrel aged apricot saison.  Sounded completely frou-frou in description, but drinks powerful like a man’s beer.  Maybe it’s the “house microbes” that make this bottle so good.  Even if it was terrible, I’d still love the idea of any brewery touting the inclusion of their “house microbes”.  But it’s not terrible.  It’s the opposite of terrible, much like everything on the roster from this fine beachside brewery.
At least he's a good sport.
Despite it being a work night, we stayed up until after midnight, catching up on the back patio, trading tales about friends and family and nerding out about our various beer experiences. Almanac Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry slayed me.  Musically, we played roulette and happily winced at the awesomeness of everything from Gojira to House Of Lightning to Vital Tech Tones to Stripmines.  The Wife went to bed, but the tasting continued to flow… Barrelhouse Stout and Smuttynose Barleywine were interesting, but the awe-inspiring Mammoth Brewing Lair Of The Bear Russian Imperial Stout finally laid us both out for the final count.
The following morning, Wilder left me with some brag-worthy bottles to enjoy on my own, including a Steve Enders homebrew, and some sure-to-be-incredible Sante Adairius efforts.  I sent him off with some extras I had, consisting of several Sierra Nevadas, a Polish Warka lager, and a Natural Light
Turns out I got the better end of that deal.
Good luck, my friend… well, as long as my luck is slightly more fortuitous than yours in 2014.

The beering continues…

Sunday 7/6 - Home
1312 - FLYING DOG BREWERY EASY IPA – An easy peasy, solid Session beer, nice crisp hop bite.
1313 - MISSION BREWERY AMBER ALE - Sweet cookie dough and caramel malt, thick and comforting, Mission is really stepping it up.
1314 - NEW BELGIUM 1554 BLACK LAGER - Nice black lager, one of the better New Belgium efforts... mild lager with a roasted dark chocolate & licorice finish.
1315 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING HOSS RYE LAGER - Oooo, that's a good 'un. Even better than I remember. That rye spice gives it depth, but it's still nicely balanced malty lager.

Monday 7/7 - Home
1316 - DESCHUTES BREWERY DESCHUTES RIVER ALE – Deschutes? Gesundheit! Damn that's good, and even hoppier than expected.
1317 - DESCHUTES BREWERY INVERSION IPA - Thought this would be average but it's surprisingly great.
What the hell's this doing on the West Coast?

Tuesday 7/8 - Home
1319 - THE DUDES' BREWING COMPANY DOUBLE TRUNK DOUBLE IPA - Holy shit, ridiculously better than I remember, full bodied and rich, I'd drink this every day.
1320 - GREAT DIVIDE BREWING NOMAD PILSNER - Let it warm up and taste the subtle depth of those crisp grains and malt, damn good.
1321 - BUTTERNUT’S BEER AND ALE MOO THUNDER STOUT - Can't believe I found this NY brewery in California, mildly creamy, slightly watery stout, tastes a bit like an iced roasted coffee with malt added.

Wednesday 7/9 - West Coast Big Year Summit with Chris Wilder
1322 - NAPA SMITH BREWERY COOL BREW HOP ALE - I keep avoiding this brewery for some reason, I keep thinking they’re some corporate brewer, but this is a decent IPA.
1323 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2010) – Well, this is pretty old, especially since I bought it 5 years ago & it’s the only beer I’ve held onto that long.
1324 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2011) – Well, I guess this is fairly old.
1325 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2012) – Well, I suppose 2 years is sort of old.
1326 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2013) – Well, it’s kinda old, even though it’s from last year.
He loves me after all.
1327 - NORTH COAST OLD STOCK ALE (2014) – Well, it’s 2014, so I wouldn’t exactly call it old.
1328 - SANTE ADAIRIUS RUSTIC ALES WEST ASHLEY - Apricot saison aged in Pinot barrels? Sign me up. Even more incredible than I was expecting. Must be the "house microbes" in there. 
1329 - ALMANAC FARMER'S RESERVE BLACKBERRY - Sour blonde with blackberries, ridiculous how evenly balanced this is.
1330 - BARRELHOUSE BREWING STOUT - Smooth, slight hops, a bit on the watery side, but delicious roasted malt flavor.
1331 - SMUTTYNOSE BARLEYWINE STYLE ALE - Rich and estery, with barely a hint of smut.

Thursday 7/10 – New release tasting at Vendome, and a couple at home
1333 - SKA BREWING TRUE BLONDE ALE - Decent. And it's waxed, like any true blonde should be.
1334 - DOGFISH HEAD POSITIVE CONTACT - Cidery beer infused with the sweat of a famous underground hip hop beatmaker
How did Harley know I've been waiting for this?
1335 - NEW BELGIUM / BREWERIJ BOON COLLABORATION TRANSATLANTIQUE KRIEK (LIPS OF FAITH) - You like Hostess cherry pie filling? Me too. At least this one gives you a buzz.
1336 - SKA BREWING DECADENT IMPERIAL IPA - Ranking full stop.
1337 - LEINENKUGEL’S BIG EDDY IMPERIAL IPA - Hardcore thick DIPA, so viscous it's almost too much!
1338 - GOOSE ISLAND HONKER'S ALE - Melted popsicle water ale.
1339 - DOGFISH HEAD SIXTY-ONE IPA BREWED WITH SYRAH GRAPE MUST -  IPA brewed with Syrah grape must. It's an interesting experiment, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a “must”.

Friday 7/11 – Payday flight at Tony’s, and a couple during date night with The Wife
1340 - TAPS IRISH RED -  Irish I could drink this one more often. Mild hops & grain. Unlike most redheads, it's even slightly sweet.
1341 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY BEER SPACESHIP - Powerful hop presence, but lighter body like a session IPA. I love this! Who are these guys?
1342 - PORT BREWING OLDER VISCOSITY - As excellent as expected, a liquified chocolate licorice cigar
1343 - LOS ANGELES ALE WORKS LIEVRE SAISON - Floral & citrusy as one would expect, damn good, a lot of attention was paid in brewing this, you can taste the difference.
Two saxes. One mouth.
1344 - FLYING DOG BREWERY RAGING BITCH BELGIAN STYLE IPA - Who you callin' "bitch", Bitch?!
1345 - SAPPORO PREMIUM LIGHT BEER - Wasn't expecting this to be very good at all, especially a "light" beer, but surprisingly good. I have no complaints. Oishii.
1346 - ORION PREMIUM DRAFT BEER - Figured this might be a step up from Sapporo. Wrong! On par with cheap American lagers. Kuso!
1347 - GOLDEN ROAD JAX BLONDE ALE - Nice sipper to accompany the underrated live jazz bands at this dusty Glendale venue.

Saturday 7/12 – Starting at home, sampling at Newhall Refinery, finishing at Matt Becker’s 40th birthday
1348 - SUDWERK BREWING IMPERIAL PILS - 20th anniversary double hopped, double malted pils. Never had a pilsner like it. Excellent.
Ms. Gearhart tolerates my obsession
1349 - HERMITAGE BREWING MANDARINA BAVARIA SINGLE HOP SERIES - First Hermitage brew I've had in years, thought they were crummy before, but this one is top notch, heavy yeast and hop presence, tropical
1350 - BROUWERIJ HUYGHE DELIRIUM RED - Cherry flavor Vicks, minus the mentho-lyptus
1351 - UINTA BREWING TILTED SMILE IMPERIAL PILSNER - An hour after having an imperial pilsner at home, I'm having another one at Newhall Refinery. Really nice, full bodied.
1352 - MIKKELLER ORANGE YUZU GLAD I SAID PORTER - Hey Mikkeller, orange yuzu glad I just paid 5 bucks for a 4 oz pour?
1353 - CISMONTANE BREWING BELGIAN APPLE PIE - Sweet, alcohol-heavy, and weird overall.
1355 - THE BRUERY LOAKAL RED - Oak aged malty, hoppy, delicious red. Glad I got a taster, although it’s probably one of the only Bruery bombers that can be purchased for under $30 these days.
Mad respect to The Brim.
1357 - FULL SAIL BREWING SESSION BLACK LAGER - Much better than anticipated, great "bullet" bottle, too.
1358 - DOS EQUIS LAGER ESPECIAL -  Que lastima!
1359 - FULL SAIL BREWING SESSION PREMIUM LAGER -  I've been avoiding this forever, probably because I'm subconsciously thinking it's Red Stripe. Not bad for a party beer.
1360 - DOGFISH HEAD 60 MINUTE IPA -  At a party rife with some of the most abysmal beers on the planet, seeing this in the cooler is like winning the lottery.
1361 - BITBURGER PREMIUM PILS -  Now I REALLY want Germany to lose the World Cup.
1362 - BECK'S -  The fermented urine of a billion Deutschlanders.
1363 - MODELO ESPECIAL -  If this country does a major crack-down on the border crossings, this is the one thing I support keeping out of our country.

Sunday 7/13 – A couple at home, then a heck of a lot of tasting with my brewing cohorts
1364 - VICTORY BREWING GOLDEN MONKEY – This always makes me think of the Beastie Boys, even though the Beastie Boys don’t have a song called “Golden Monkey”. Awesome, golden Belgian style tripel... and it's triple good going in my mouth.
Proud Papas.
1365 - VICTORY BREWING HOP DEVIL -  Praise Hop Satan!
1366 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY IMPERIALIST DOUBLE IPA - Ridiculous. Total armageddon to your palette, death by hops. Love it.
1367 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY LOU AMERICAN BROWN ALE -  A tasty brown with serious hop bite, as a bonus this is brewed to help raise funds for ALS research and treatment.
1369 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY REFRESH -  Unfiltered and easy drinking pilsner. The name says it all.
1370 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY WAKE UP -  Well done session coffee porter, sure beats Folgers in your cup
1371 - HIGHLAND PARK BREWERY COCO NOCHE -  Mellow coconut stout, evenly balanced, subtle on the coconut, as it should be.
1372 - ALMANAC FARMER'S RESERVE CITRUS -  Puckery but still a quick sipper.
1373 - ALMANAC ICHIBIER -  Either something's wrong with the keg, or this is the only Almanac beer I don't like. Fish washed in soapy water & piped thru a garden hose.
1374 - SANTA CLARA VALLEY BREWING PERALTA PORTER -  Not as cool as Powell-Peralta, but a decent porter, a bit watery, light mouthfeel, fair maltiness.
1375 - STONE BREWING REASON BE DAMNED BARREL AGED BELGIAN ALE -  The name sums it up, delicious and even a bit sweet.
Gettin' Hermo-silly.
1376 - CRAFTSMAN BREWING HEAVENLY HEFE -  Fantastic, very floral, rich, more like a Belgian golden. Call it what you want, I call it freakin' good.
1377 - STONE BREWING STONE FARKING WHEATON WOOTSTOUT -  Imperial pecan? Phenomenal. Incredible, thick & oily, sweet & gooey, could easily be a dark barleywine.
1378 - BEACHWOOD BREWING CONTROL+MALT+DELETE -  British ale, dark & decent but a bit thin on the mouthfeel.

Monday 7/14 – Ohana tasting room, samplers at 38 Degrees, and a few courtesy of Grill Em All
1379 - OHANA BREWING HOLLENBACK AMBER ALE - Caramel & malt heavy, solid, one of their better ones.
1380 - OHANA BREWING SAISON KAU WELA - Belgian style farmhouse ale, esters & the usual, pretty darn good.
Hot wife and cold tasters.
1381 - BEACHWOOD BREWING TABLE SAAZ - Bland & forgettable, sorry.
1382 - FACTION BREWING SPRING IPA - Holy cow that's good!
1383 - JOSEPH JAMES BREWING DESERT SNOW WHITE IPA - Drinks like a session IPA, great!
1384 - RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING DAMNATION - Heavy floral & estery, damn tasty.
1385 - RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING PLINY THE ELDER - After years of hype, after all this time, I forgot how truly great this is. Wonderfully hop-heavy but nice lingering subtle malt & barley. Can't believe it took me 6 1/2 months to finally get to my first Pliny.
1386 - NOBLE ALE WORKS NEW EDITION - Did Bobby Brown brew this? American brown on toasted oak. If Whitney was around, I'd slap her for a pint. Awesome.
1387 - CERVECERIA MEXICANA QUEEN OF THE NIGHT PALE ALE  - For some reason, I love the idea of fancy beer coming out of Mexico. Heavy on the caramel, or is that dulce de leche. Que bueno!
1388 - PABST BREWING OLYMPIA BEER  - Quintessential "old man beer". Not nearly as bad as I was expecting.
Drink Em All!

Tuesday 7/15 – Gordon Biersch samplers and two more so-so brews
1390 - GORDON BIERSCH HEFEWEIZEN – Not bad, as long as they don’t put a lemon in it.
1392 - GORDON BIERSCH SCHWARZBIER – Astoundingly not good, with a moldy aftertaste.
1394 - ASAHI SUPER DRY – Fair, but forgettable.
1395 - MENDOCINO BREWING WHITE HAWK IPA – A huge improvement over the previous six, but still not of any significance

Wednesday 7/16 - Home & band practice
1396 - ABITA BREWING AMBER - Welcome to Pointless Town - Population: This.
1397 - ABITA BREWING JOCKAMO IPA - Heavy caramel malts & nice hoppiness, most likely the best offering on the Abita roster.
1398 - ABITA BREWING ANDYGATOR - Not necessary, but a decent doppelbock.
1399 - MISSION BREWING SHIPWRECKED DOUBLE IPA - Heavy hops with a cookie dough yeast finish. Mission has finally dialed it in.
1400 - BAIRD BREWING KUROFUNE PORTER - Can't believe I found this bottle Stateside. Bitter chocolate, yeasty, malty and comforting. Really diggin' this. So glad I hit #1,400 with a good one. Kanpai!

Life should be more like this.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beer #1228-1311 / Day #177-186: Brew The Right Thing

Brooklyn. Spawning ground of Biggie Smalls, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and countless Spike Lee joints.  Known as a rough & tumble borough, especially to uninitiated outsiders.  2.5 million sweaty, pissed off people smashed into 71 square miles of brick and rusted steel.  Despite having plenty of “flava”, who knew Brooklyn could offer anything beer-wise, aside from flavorless 40 ozers? 
Infest was booked for two shows in Brooklyn, so we headed out early to get a taste of this town, landing at JFK on a Thursday evening.  Our plane sat on the tarmac for an hour, while the pilot informed us our gate “wasn’t ready”.  What?  The airport didn’t know we were coming?  We finally deplaned, only to wait an additional 15 minutes for our gate-checked guitars to show up, but only after continued prodding of flight staff.  I’ve always loved NY, but since we’ve landed why is everyone here a buffoon?
I knew I'd get some sweet action in NYC
Our fears were assuaged when we were met at the airport by our pals Dan Oestreich and Jack Barfield. Dan is The Man who arranged this whole weekend, and the only reason Infest is in NYC 25 years after an original aborted attempt.  Jack is a friend who traveled from Austin just to hang out & soak up the spectacle that our weekends tend to be.
Thursday night, no obligations, so we drop off bags at our Airbnb room and head over to THE ANCHORED INN, a funky pub adorned with floor to ceiling black velvet paintings depicting everything from a cockeyed wizard to an ancient warrior riding a sleigh pulled by polar bears. Behind the bar is one of the co-owners, Bill Dozer, one of the nicest and hardest working scenesters you could hope to meet.  He runs the kitchen and bar here, as well as sound next door at the adjoining Acheron club.  It’s midnight, but the kitchen stays open long enough to whip up some excellent burgers, and I’m off to the races sampling some Brooklyn brews courtesy of Sixpoint Brewing, with the Sweet Action being particularly good.  Bill points out this beer is one that all of his patrons identify as something different.  Some say Pale Ale, I guessed it was a mild Barleywine, Untappd says it’s a Cream Ale.  Whatever it is, it’s freakin’ tasty.
Naw, take your time, Pops
Friday I’m up early and exploring the neighborhood.  Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Bed-Stuy.  I’d always envisioned this as one of the grittier neighborhoods, but like most “bad” areas, the hipster presence has resulted in a plethora of “artisan” establishments.  And as much as I like to make fun of hipsters, I have no issues reaping the benefits of the new landscape they are creating. Like the Bedford Hill Coffee Bar; not only do they serve great coffee, they have four local taps!  Unfortunately, every morning I went to Bedford Hill, it was much too early to imbibe in the brews.
This afternoon the gang piled into Dan O’s van and headed to a staple of Brooklyn pizza lore, DiFara’s. One of the irresolvable arguments of this borough is who has the best pie.  Many argue that it’s DiFara’s.  I don’t research these things, so I was just along for the ride. Best Pizza In NY? Sounds good.  However, one thing I didn’t know in advance was EVERY SINGLE pizza is made by one man, Mr. DiFara.  He’s the only one allowed to make the pizzas, so much so that legend has it he burned his hand and the whole operation closed its doors for several months until he recovered. Our first mistake was ordering 2 large pies, thinking we would save money on each getting slices. Turns out slices are the way to go. We waited. And waited. Everyone went across the street to the bagel joint to get something to eat while we were waiting for our pizzas. And we still waited. We had invested so much time already it was difficult to determine if we should cut our losses and go, or stick it out.  Two hours later our pies arrived.  They were delicious.  Then again it was 3pm and I hadn’t eaten anything, so at this point a week-old hot dog from 7-Eleven would have been delicious. The Best?  Well, you’ll just have to wait & judge for yourself.
No caption can make this photo funnier than it already is.
Next stop was Coney Island.  We were a week too early to see Joey Chestnut in the annual Hot Dog Eating Competition, but we were still able to grab a dog & a beer at Nathan’s. Their proprietary Coney Island Lager was surprisingly good, but the goodness was short lived as the NYPD left a bad taste in our mouths after pulling our friend Alex Sanchez aside. He had mace visibly attached his belt loop.  He has a permit for mace.  Unfortunately his permit was for Pennsylvania, and we were in NY.  Mace isn’t legal to carry in NY, so they cuffed him and took him to the local precinct.  We talked to a few undercover cops who were explaining the laws regarding mace.  They knew they were taking him in for something that wasn’t a big deal, and that made it even worse. One of the cops was trying to make us feel at ease, like he was “cool” and “just one of the boys” by talking very matter-of-factly, and making comments about women walking by, like “Whoa, lookit dat ass!”  They told us Sanchez would be out “in an hour or two”, which the locals tell me is typical, even if they hold you for a day or more.  Unfortunately, we had to let our incarcerated pal work it out solo because we had to get back to the venue for tonight’s show. 
Nathan's with Joey D., not Joey C.
Once again, we were at The Anchored Inn, geared up to play the adjoining ACHERON next door.  I was told this place was small, but that’s an understatement.  Luckily, these smaller shows are always my favorite.  The intimacy & interaction with the crowd is what makes it exciting, because aside from frontman Denunzio, the other three of us don’t “put on a show”. We stand there & hammer out these tunes, looking very much like the middle-aged Dads that we are. All of the opening bands were awesome, and I somehow found one tiny, vacant square of real estate in the back of the room where I was able to watch them. Magrudergrind are always a highlight for me, and tonight was no exception. These dudes are brothers-from-another-mother, and they absolutely killed it.
The sound was great, thanks to Bill Dozer, and all in attendance were simply there to have fun and go off. There was a hiccup or two in our set, but otherwise tonight’s show went smoothly.  To my surprise, a few days later the Village Voice even ran a complimentary piece on the show. The bands wrapped it up before midnight, and The Anchored Inn stayed open til 4am, so needless to say it was a fine evening of tipsy tomfoolery, including some selections I can’t find out West, like Geary’s Summer Ale and Founder’s Dry Hopped Pale Ale.
Saturday I awoke with a mission.  Today was going to be Beer Day.  Actually, yesterday was supposed to be Beer Day, but with a huge group of folks who all want to do something different, it’s difficult to accomplish anything.  Driving across town and waiting two hours for pizza didn’t help either.  But today there would be no distractions.  I would meet up with a couple friends who were beer savvy, and we’d hit the best local spots without unnecessary detours. 
I kicked off the day at a Bed-Stuy pizzeria called SPEEDY ROMEO. Awesome wood-fired foods. I went for the baked eggs which came in a cast iron pan with arugula on the side;  one of my favorite breakfasts in recent memory. Additionally, my waitress was cool with pouring me some half-pints, even though they didn’t officially serve beer samplers, so I checked out some great local taps from SingleCut Beersmiths, the Billy 18-Watt IPA and Kim Hibiscus Sour. My pal R.J. Ober, guitarist of Magrudergrind and regional rep for Victory Brewing, was kind enough to meet up & guide me for the afternoon.
Torst. Not exactly warm & fuzzy.
We took the G Train (aka the “Ghost Train”, nicknamed for its reputation of not showing up) out to TORST, a fancy schmancy beer bar run by Evil Twin Brewing. This was at the very top of my list to visit, being a huge fan of all things Evil Twin. The environment is very antiseptic. I’m not sure if you’d call it post-modern or metrosexual or just plain uncomfortable, but it was pristine and clean enough for Felix Ungar.  All beers are served in stemmed wine glasses, which frankly is kind of embarrassing... it's kind of like riding a moped:  It's really fun until someone sees you doing it. One unique thing about this spot is their Flux Capacitor, which keeps each tap at the perfect serving temperature for each beer. And it was!  Nothing was too cold, it was all just the right temp to enjoy what each style had to offer.  We were joined by my new pal Bill Dozer and his wife, and co-owner of The Anchored Inn, Carmen Mello.  This couple also knows a ton about the local beer scene, so I was in perfect sippin’ company with these three.  Despite the less-than-warm nature of the room, Torst offered a cavalcade of beer nerd fodder, including many East Coast brewers I never see… Maine Beer Co., Carton, Other Half, Westbrook. In retrospect, it was ironic that Evil Twin is one of my favorites, as I didn’t try a single Evil Twin brew while I was there. We shared the De Dolle Oerbier which defies categorization, and I was nearly moved to tears by the perfection of the Haandbryggeriet Dark Force Russian Imperial Stout. Biggest surprise was the Westbrook Mexican Cake Imperial Stout aged on cacao nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and habaneros.. Complex & rich, it tasted like Christmas in Santa Fe.  But this was summer in NY, and we had to keep moving…
Subway selfie.
Another quick subway ride and we were suddenly in Manhattan’s East Village, taking stairs below street level to an unassuming pub, JIMMY'S NO. 43.  The whole subterranean atmosphere reminded me of Cheers, and this is clearly a local’s hangout, not geared towards the tourist crowd whatsoever. Their taps are predominantly East Coast, and all obscure, at least for me. Barrier Brewing, Peekskill Brewery, Radiant Pig, Oxbow from Maine, Off Color from Chicago.  This place is the shiznit.  Between the four of us, we sampled nearly everything on the list.  My favorites were the offerings from Barrier, who apparently doesn’t tend to brew the same thing twice. My picks of the list would be the Barrier Bulkhead Red IPA and the Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale.  Great brews, but the kitchen wasn’t open & we were famished, now that it was going on 4pm. Time for a quick sandwich at Porchetta, one of the best slow roasted pork sandwiches on the planet, and then down the block to my newest mecca of all things sudsy:  PROLETARIAT.
This man knows a helluva lot more than you
They specialize in "Rare, New, and Unusual Beers."  Too bad I wasn't wearing tape on my glasses, because I felt like king of the nerds. This establishment is beyond words. Very small, very specialized, carrying only the best of the best.  Taps that I've never seen anywhere else. Breweries that I've never seen anywhere else. Everything was top notch, and the man manning the braus, Cory Bonfiglio, strikes me as the Dave Witte of NYC... one of those fellas who has been intently following good beer for way longer than 98% of the people involved in the beer scene now. This man knows his shit and is one of the best possible allies for navigating the "deep cuts" on their list.  Everything was a highlight, each pour better than the next... Hof Ten Dormaal Grappa Barrel Belgian Dark, Loverbeer Beerbrugna sour on tap, Glazen Toren Saison D'Erpe Mere Speciale Editie, Hill Farmstead / Brasserie de Blaugies collaboration La Vermontoise farmhouse ale... all sheer perfection.
It was early evening, and I needed to sober up in order to play our second show this evening, so we all headed back to Brooklyn, to this evening's venue THE WICK.
Welcome to The Wick.
This massive brick compound was, appropriately enough, the site of an old brewery.  In many of these cavernous rooms, I could still smell hints of musty, ancient fermentation... the greatest possible sense memory. The vibe was good, the turnout of 500+ was great, the opening bands were excellent, our set was OK... On a stage that big and that high, I always feel a bit of a disconnect from the crowd.  I couldn't even see past the second row of folks in front of the stage. The crowd seemed to enjoy it which is all that really matters. The best part of this evening was reconnecting with old friends from the NY area hardcore/punk/metal scene, some of whom I haven't seen since the '90s when I was playing with Spazz... Ralphy Boy & Matt from Disassociate, Javier from Born Against/Iabhorher/Kylesa, Keith from Rorschach, Rob & Andrew from Black Army Jacket, Eddie from Cattlepress... it really made my evening hanging out with these guys. I told them it felt like a high school reunion, except with people I actually wanted to see. Good vibes. The Wick kicked us all out, and we migrated down the block, some to a Troma Films show, and others to The Anchored Inn around the corner.  I ended up at the latter, and stayed up til the wee hours catching up with old friends, surprised that Keith Huckins was the only person on this entire trip to give me shit about wearing an LA Kings hat. Yo... Rangers lost. Deal with it.
 I love deez ol' palookas!
I think everyone had a good time except drummer Bob, who according to eye-witness accounts, wavered heavily after two rum & Cokes, and stumbled to the sidewalk unable to stand. Guitarist Matt Domino spotted what was happening, donned his Good Samaritan hat, and took Bob back to our room where the lanky legend purged what was ailing him.  The next morning we speculated if Bob was laid up after too much exhaustion (he had climbed the Statue Of Liberty earlier in the day, and then played a show that night), or if someone had drugged him, either accidentally or on purpose.  Bob isn't a heavy drinker, but then again, he can handle two drinks easily.
Naw, it's way classier 'n shit!
At least Bob woke up feeling well, and ready to pursue his Standard Operating Procedure of a day chock full o' Diet Coke and pinball. Me, I was ready to explore more Brooklyn brews. I started out the afternoon sampling a tasty Victory Wild Devil farmhouse style IPA, courtesy of RJ Ober, but now that my whistle was wet, I needed more. We had the entire day free on Sunday, but I was the only one motivated to find local beer. I knew if I stuck around, my afternoon would disappear quickly in a series of waiting around for other people to go eat, take a shit, get cigarettes, get something else to eat, etc. So, I put on my big boy pants and hit this borough solo. One of the local breweries that intrigued me was OTHER HALF BREWING, and according to Google Maps it was just a few blocks off the G Train. Even after two full days here, I had less than zero familiarity of what's where in Brooklyn, but I still headed to the train alone, assuming I'd make sense of it quickly. Within half an hour, I was meandering through an industrial section of the Red Hook neighborhood, looking for a brewery with no signage whatsoever.  Other Half is simply a nondescript room off the street, in a shabby, graffitied brick building. If it wasn't for the address on the website, I would have never known this place existed by simply walking by.  One small room, practically underneath the 278 expressway, raw and gritty, fully DIY, with cool '90s hip hop tunes in constant rotation, and eight high quality taps.  Anthony was behind the counter, soft spoken, and as chill as it gets. I tried all eight beers (actually, I had already sampled their Green Diamonds DIPA the day before at Torst), and loved them all.
OK, but where's the Other Half of this deer?
40 oz later, I was more than pleasantly buzzed, and trying to figure out how to meet up with my cohorts on the other side of town. They were all in the Greenpoint neighborhood watching Bob play pinball at a laundromat. I rode the subway up, met my peeps, had a few quick slices (2 minute wait, as opposed to 2 hours), and grabbed a last local pint at LAKE STREET BAR, the Bronx Brewery Bronx Pale Ale. All too soon we were headed back to JFK, with still so much untapped potential I was leaving behind in Brooklyn, but it would have to wait for my next beering adventure.  So many missed opportunities.  Or maybe it was just the Big Apple's final revenge on a cocky Cali boy walking around in a Kings hat.  Brooklyn's got the flava, Son!

The beering continues...

Thursday 6/26 - LAX to JFK in a day
1228 - WIDMER BROTHERS UPHEAVAL IPA - At Rock & Brews, LAX... is this the joint owned by Gene Simmons? Decent IPA, smooth finish, evenly balanced hops.
1229 - SIXPOINT BREWERY RIGHTEOUS RYE ALE - Mildy spicy & hoppy rye beer, on tap at Anchored Inn, Brooklyn
1230 - SIXPOINT BREWERY SWEET ACTION - Pale ale? Cream ale? Barley wine? Whatever it is, it's freakin' good.
1231 - BELL'S OBERON ALE -Wheat beer, fresh & refreshing

Friday 6/27 - Brooklyn: Part 1
1232 - CONEY ISLAND BREWING CONEY ISLAND LAGER - Tasty, malty, reddish-amber lager at Nathan's... I ordered two and my change was $9.11!
1233 - D.L. GEARY BREWING GEARY'S SUMMER ALE - Nice n' citrusy n' amber, not weak like most beers in the "summer" category.
1234 - 21ST AMENDMENT BREWERY BACK IN BLACK IPA - Not East Coast, but killer black IPA nonetheless, hoppy and chocolatey.
1235 - FOUNDERS BREWING DRY HOPPED PALE ALE - Welcome to hop town, love it, great Nouveau label art, too.

Saturday 6/28 - Brooklyn: Part 2
1236 - SINGLECUT BEERSMITHS BILLY 18 WATT IPA - Hoppy, light and crisp, like a session IPA.
1238 - CARTON BREWING MONKEY CHASED THE WEASEL - Great Berlinerweisse with mulberry, hint of tartness but not overly fruity.
1239 - OTHER HALF BREWING GREEN DIAMONDS IMPERIAL IPA - Excellent DIPA, apparently brewed by ex-Sixpoint'ers
1240 - BROUWERIJ DE DOLLE OERBIER - Slightly tart, peppery beer that defies most categories.
1241 - HAANDBRYGGERIET DARK FORCE - Wow! What a treat. Black, oily, and Norwegian... just like my women.
1243 - WESTBROOK BREWING MEXICAN CAKE - Christmastime in Santa Fe.
1244 - BARRIER BREWING REMBRANDT PORTER - Nice & roasty, apparently the brewery doesn't often brew the same thing twice.
1245 - PEEKSKILL BREWERY SIMPLE SOUR - Very sessionable, like a sweet white wine.
1247 - BARRIER BREWING MOLLY CODDLE - Total English style brown pub ale.
1248 - OFF COLOR BREWING SCURRY DARK TRADITIONAL ALE - Mellow, mildly yeasty, mildly roasty.
1250 - RADIANT PIG GANGSTER DUCK RED ALE - Slightly spicy, almost like a mild curry, with cookie dough yeast.
1251 - BROUWERIJ HOF TEN DORMAAL GRAPPA BARREL BELGIAN DARK - High alcohol, acidic & biting, but so goddamn good.
1252 - LOVERBEER BEERBRUGNA - Rare Italian beer on tap, a sour with plums, so smooth.
1253 - GLAZEN TOREN SAISON D'ERPE MERE SPECIALE EDITIE - Crazy good, but too tipsy to tell what I'm tasting.
1254 - JOLLY PUMPKIN / ANCHORAGE COLLABORATION BOREAL - A sour ale aged in oak with grapefruit & peppercorns. Sounds wacky, but it's crazy delicious.
1256 - ADIRONDACK BEAVERTAIL BROWN - A sleeping bag made of malt that  I want to curl up in.

Sunday 6/29 – Brooklyn: Part 3
Yes, this is a brewery: Brooklyn style
1257 - VICTORY BREWING WILD DEVIL - A version of their Hop Devil with brettanomyces added. Way different. Doesn't taste like an IPA. Like a wild, tangy farmhouse ale. Sharp and funky. Great stuff.  Thanks RJ!
1258 - OTHER HALF BREWING MONTUEKA PALE ALE – Like corn cobs and wheat.
1259 - OTHER HALF BREWING HOP SHOWERS – Straight ahead IPA, citrusy & bright.
1260 - OTHER HALF BREWING OTHER HALF IPA – West Coast style w/ simcoe hops.
1261 - OTHER HALF BREWING DOUG CASCADIAN DARK IPA – Brewed last December, they sat on a couple kegs and ended up with a well-rounded beer, full mouthfeel, perfect blend of hops and deep roasty malts.
1262 - OTHER HALF BREWING HUP! HUP! HUP! – Belgian style farmhouse ale with a hint of hop tightness.
1263 - OTHER HALF BREWING GALAXY IPA – Clean, crisp, well done.
1264 - OTHER HALF BREWING WHEAT WINE – Like a lighter barley wine, sweet & wheaty, would be great in a winter cabin. Excellent, a real powerhouse.
1265 - THE BRONX BREWERY BRONX PALE ALE – Light amber, malt forward, full mouthfeel, tasty & perfect for hangin’ with mooks from The Bronx, yo.

Monday 6/30 - home
1266 - ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING SPRING HORNIN' - Love Anderson Valley, this is no exception.
1267 - EVIL TWIN FREUDIAN SLIP - Freakishly delicious. Full, well-rounded, sweet and decadent barleywine.

Tuesday 7/1 - home
1268 - SAN MIGUEL BREWERY RED HORSE BEER - My wife found this at the 99 Cent Store. Not as horrific as I was expecting. Like Bud, except the Philippines version.
1269 - DE STRUISE BROUWERS TSJEESES - Smells and tastes like liquefied walnuts.

Wednesday 7/2 – at the Hollywood Bowl, watching Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
1270 - EVIL TWIN YANG – Killer imperial IPA.
1271 - SMUTTYNOSE SHOALS PALE ALE - Roasty grain and malt forward, fab on a summer's eve waiting for Steve Martin
1272 - BEACHWOOD BREWING STILL LIFE SMOKED STOUT - Rich milky and smoky stout, this is exactly what I need on a perfect summer nite @ the Bowl
1273 - CLOWN SHOES SWAGGER HOPPY RED LAGER - Still at the Bowl, so freakin good, crisp and hoppy red

Thursday 7/3 – Vendome new release tasting and a few at home
1274 - BELCHING BEAVER ME SO HONEY – A honey wheat ale that is not overly sweet, thankfully. The description says “wild flowers & cloves”, but I’m not getting any of that. Decent, and easy drinking.
1275 - NEW BELGIUM / 3 FLOYDS COLLABORATION GRATZER ALE – An oak smoked wheat ale which actually tastes a lot like an old ashtray, with a lingering Marlboro finish. 
1276 - DESCHUTES BREWERY NOT THE STOIC – Whoa! Rich and thick as molasses. Superior!
1277 - DOUBLE MOUNTAIN CLUSTER SINGLE HOP IPA – Skunky, buttery, and good.
1278 - BEACHWOOD/HERETIC/STONE COLLABORATION UNAPOLOGETIC IPA – Nice combo of citrus depth and hoppy bite.
1279 - BIG SKY BREWING SUMMER HONEY ALE – Not necessary.
1280 - ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING SUMMER SOLSTICE – Overly sweet & caramelly, almost headed towards barleywine territory.
1281 - ALE INDUSTRIES RYE'D PIPER – I’m a sucker for anything rye related. I don’t love this. It’s OK, but I’d never buy it again.

Friday 7/4 – The Fourth at home with friends
1282 - UINTA BREWING MONKSHINE – A standout Belgian style golden ale, easy drinking, this could easily be my everyday beer.
1283 – ALASKAN BREWING SUMMER ALE – Kolsch style, wheaty & mildly malty, can’t complain, this is a solid, accessible beer.
1284 - WARKA LAGER - Not nearly as bad as I was expecting, pretty decent generic Polish lager.
1285 - EPIC BREWING RIO'S ROMPIN' RYE BEER - Excellent, one of the best rye beers on the market, liquified rye bread with lemon.

"We are wild and crazy guys!"
Saturday 7/5 – Torrance, Redondo, Hermosa Beach mini beer tour
1286 - ABSOLUTION BREWING WANDERING POSSESSED COCONUT PORTER - Decent, one of the better ones, one of three I sort of liked. We had 10 samplers, one I forgot I had already tried at the SD Int'l Beer Fest. I really want to support independent brewers, especially locals. Absolution has a great facility & everything in place to be a contender, but their beers across the board are bland, watery, and lacking depth. I hope they get an experienced brewmaster in-house to turn this ship around.
1288 - ABSOLUTION BREWING POSSESSED PORTER - Pretty good, like a lighter English style porter.
1290 - ABSOLUTION BREWING THE WICKED DOUBLE IPA - Fair, one of their "better" brews
1295 - ALESMITH BREWING SPEEDWAY STOUT - Enjoyed it with brunch on Redondo Beach Pier.  I want to make love to this beer.
1296 - ABIGAILE BREWERY ILLUMINATI PILS - This place has out of place punk themed artwork, and the menu descriptions are straight out of the Guy Fieri School Of Douchebaggery, but their beer is superior and well worth the trip, especially considering I've rarely seen their brews on tap outside of the restaurant in Hermosa Beach. 
1297 - ABIGAILE BREWERY HOPS N RYE - Lighter mix of both, easy drinking, highly carbonated, burp inducing.
1298 - ABIGAILE BREWERY CACOPHONY IPA - Incredible hop bomb, slightly sweet, skunky and citrusy.
1299 - ABIGAILE BREWERY THE SYNERGIST BELGIAN DUBBEL - A dark and delicious Belgian style dubbel, malty and deeply rich.
1300 - KING HARBOR BREWING THE QUEST EL DORADO - Mellow, well-balanced pale with El Dorado hops.
1301 - KING HARBOR BREWING THE QUEST HALLERTAU BLANC - Really crispy grain-heavy finish, delish!
1302 - KING HARBOR BREWING CALIFORNIA SAISON - Funky farmhouse ale, with a hint of curry.
1303 - KING HARBOR BREWING ABEL BROWN - Roasty perfection.
1304 - KING HARBOR BREWING CASKABEL WITH CHIPOTLE ON CASK - Brown ale with chipotle added, on cask, really nice, I'm a sucker for chile beers these days, this is no exception, well rounded.
1305 - MONKISH BREWING ANOMALY – Dark, strong ale, perfection.
1306 - MONKISH BREWING SHAOLIN FIST – A spiced dubbel, would be better around the Holidays.
1307 - MONKISH BREWING SEME DELLA VITA – Belgian style tripel with pistachios & vanilla beans, sounds odd, but damn good.
1308 - MONKISH BREWING ST. SIMCOE – All simcoe hops in a citrusy pale.
1309 - MONKISH BREWING ST. LIBERTY – All liberty hops in a dry hopped pale.
1310 - MONKISH BREWING SAISON DE LILAH – Saison with lavender, sounds super frou-frou, but it’s tasty. No, really.
1311 - MONKISH BREWING POUR TOI – Pour moi? C’est bon! Well rounded pale ale.  Monkish knows what the hell they’re doing, it turns out.